Cuckoo for Coco
Tonight was the culmination of the incredible movement surrounding Conan O’Brien over the last 9 months on his path from losing The Tonight Show to starting a Twitter account to embarking on a national comedy tour to his new series on TBS. And the social media impact on all of these events was unprecedented. Here are a few of the reasons why I think Team Coco was able to strike viral gold and so successfully capitalize on it over an extended period of time.
1) Going with the flow. Conan said it himself in his monologue earlier tonight: “Those people (on the Internet) saved my ass.” Even before he signed off for the last time at The Tonight Show, Conan and his team recognized the viral groundswell of support that he was experiencing, and he not only acknowledged it, but he let it carry him out the door. Rather than trying to control it or replace it with something manufactured, Conan let the Team Coco movement take charge.
2) They never stopped. Even when things were in limbo, the movement continued to thrive and grow, driven by the online grassroots campaign and inspired by Conan’s involvement and interaction with fans via Twitter. Once the summer tour was announced and the TBS deal was sealed, Conan’s staff began to take more control of the overall environment, but they never did it in a way that suffocated the effort and they never let it stop – the movement pressed on full speed ahead, and it continued to grow every step of the way. There was never a lull in the campaign from the time Conan went off the air at NBC to when he went back on the air at TBS – Team Coco, led by Conan’s writing staff, kept the party going 24/7.
3) There was always something in it for the fans. Conan set the tone for this himself when the first – and only – person he followed on Twitter was an seemingly unsuspecting girl named Sarah, aka @LovelyButton. Through Twitter, Conan became accessible in a way that he was never able to when he was only on TV. People experienced the highs and lows as Conan went through the incredibly human and personal process of losing his job and figuring out what to do next with his life. Suddenly there was not only a movement around the TV host who got screwed over by network bosses, but rather a strong personal connection with someone who was going through a stressful time and looking for moral support and inspiration. It was a movement in support of a guy who – even when being shoved out the door at NBC – still had the class to sign off for the last time by saying, “if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
Fans felt like they were a part of what was going on with Conan, and they always had a role. Even as his staff started to produce and distribute their own content related to the new TV show, user generated content still continued to receive attention through TeamCoco.com, Twitter @teamcoco and on Facebook. Fans wanted to work for the attention of Team Coco, and Conan himself, and the results were inspiring. As one small way of saying thank you, in the 10 days before the debut of the new TV show, Team Coco conducted a contest that gave away 10,000 t-shirts on a first come, first served basis – and the shirts were gone literally within minutes because fans were engaged and paying close attention.
4) Total team involvement. The Team Coco movement was both top down and bottom up. It was medium-netural. The entire team was responsible for the entire effort. Activity on the Internet drove people to watch the TV show, and the TV show drove people back to the Internet for bonus content. A social media campaign is at its best when it’s not just a social media campaign, but rather a fearless all-hands-on-deck movement, and Team Coco’s efforts are a perfect example of how this should work.
5) Content is king. Video skits. 24 hour webcams. Photos. Blimps. While we were all waiting for the debut of the new TV show, we were most certainly not without entertainment. From staff driven content, to videos featuring Conan himself, it’s almost like he was never off the air.
Success can be defined in a lot of different ways for Team Coco, but ultimately the goal was to convince fans to tune into the new TV show. The result? During his TBS debut, Conan generated a preliminary 2.8 rating, translating to approximately 4 million homes that tuned in. Not a bad showing for basic cable.
Further proof that TBS understands what they’ve become a part of? Conan will be posting all of his shows online the morning after they air (TBS does this for several of their shows). Click here to watch.
So of course the looming question is…will his fans stick with him? Only time will tell. But Team Coco has done everything they possibly can to set themselves up for success in 21st century TV land.